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How can businesses overcome RPA’s scalability challenge in 2020?

(Image credit: Image Credit: MNBB Studio / Shutterstock)

The rise of Intelligent Automation solutions has been meteoric. According to a study conducted by Information Service Group (ISG) looking at the state of robotic process automation (RPA) adoption across Europe, it is estimated that by 2020, over 90 per cent of European businesses would have adopted RPA to some extent. However, as the advent of automation has continued, so too have hiccups begun to emerge for businesses on their automation journey - with the most pressing of all being the issue of scalability.

In fact, a recent study from Deloitte found that only 3 per cent of organisations in Europe have been able to scale their automation projects past 50 automation digital workers. So why are businesses automation projects stagnating? And what can be done to solve the problem of scalability?

Why do so many automations stall?

There are two major pain points organisations are facing on their automation journeys:

  1. The initial set up time and cost.
  2. The overall scalability of the solution.

With RPA commonly being seen as a means of delivering fast ROI, the first pain point often comes about when organisations are not able to achieve ROI as fast as they would like due to lengthy set up times. The buzz of passing mundane processes onto digital workers will completely be forgotten if organisations are spending long periods of time validating, sourcing and setting up the solution. Similarly, RPA licenses do not typically come cheap, with organisations being forced to commit to an upfront set of licenses for between 1-3 years. Ultimately, this headache of initially setting up automation can result in organisations being put off extending their automations further.

The second pain point is the scalability of the solution itself. For instance, if an organisation requires more bots to perform a task at a peak time in the year, then it is hard for them to do so due to the nature of RPA tool licenses. This is because the typical RPA tool licenses available today do not allow for this as they require organisations to commit to using a certain number of bots for at least a year – in which instance the organisation may end up paying for bots they don’t need. Thus, organisations are presented with a predicament that results in their automation projects stalling.

Robot-as-a-Service to the rescue

According to Gartner, the RPA market grew over 63 per cent last year, making it the fastest growing enterprise software sector. RPA is entering its fifth year of really being commercially viable, so the software is moving from early adoption to market wide implementation and scale. Developers are aware of concerns over the scalability of automation processes, and models such as robot-as-a-service (RaaS) are a proposed solution.

The RaaS model is the latest iteration of software-as-a-service (SaaS). It solves both the major automation scalability pain points, while also providing businesses with a cost-effective alternative to the standard RPA licenses. However, it requires thinking about the whole RPA solution from a fresh viewpoint. Rather than building a traditional IT environment for RPA, organisations should consider the solution from the modern, cloud-based view.

In the conventional way of setting up IT services, one needs to think about factors which include servers, capacity, licenses and networks. Additionally, about keeping all those components up to date when the time goes by.

However, the fresh, cloud-based service approach is different. An organisation needs to acknowledge that the RPA service could be a vehicle to improve their business performance, and understand that automation is crucial to continuity. The service covers scalability, resilience, and variance of usage. In case it turns out that the robot is needed for 10,000 minutes one month and only 1,000 minutes the next month, the consumption is paid according to the usage.

Scaling up and down

RaaS offers organisations the ideal approach to embarking on a digital transformation, allowing them to scale up from obtaining a license, implementing platform, and then placing the RPA applications on the platform. This allows new customers who are just beginning to digitally transform a chance to scale up quickly and using RaaS as the underlying infrastructure.

This method of implementation allows organisations to get set-up in a short amount of time and pay only for what they use. As this service allows companies to pay by the minute, there is no up-front cost attached to implementing an RPA solution through RaaS. This allows companies to evaluate their use of the service and scale up or down.

Most companies will be able to automate at least 20 per cent of their workload within the space of five years, and RaaS revolutionises the way that organisations go about implementing an RPA solution. It allows companies to work with experienced vendors to begin their digital transformation, making the task at hand far less daunting than if they were to do it internally. With RaaS, organisations can now focus on offering their own products and services to customers, and less about the backend processes that allow for smoother operations. As we move into 2020, we should expect to more and more businesses look to implement and scale their automation projects by using the RaaS model.

James Ewing, Regional Director UK & Ireland, Digital Workforce

James Ewing is UK Sales Director at Digital Workforce - the leading RPA specialist.